Port Harcourt: Grappling With Flood Challenge

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In due course we won’t experience these floods. Of course that is one of the long term measures the government is doing to tackle the flood problem, that road carries ultra modern drainage, deep and wide enough to carry the water that flows out of Government  House Moscow Road and adjoining  streets, that is a long term measure.

It was like a test of will as the premises of the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority and its neigbourhood was buffeted by rain and flood recently.  A test of  will considering the determined effort and measures  the Rivers State government  had invested  in the past two years to contain flood and pursue its vision for a Greater Port Harcourt of which the GPH is a symbol.

Mrs Susan Friday, a resident, currently walks with a limp after misjudging the depth and area of a gutter disguised by flood waters and spraining her ankle in an illfated attempt to jump over the gutter.

Flood is a Niger Delta phenomenon but recently, flooding problems have taken a heavy toll on the city with most of the residents calling on government to come to their rescue.

Though it is still not certain how much have been lost by residents to flooding, three weeks ago a downpour left much in its wake. From Mile I Diobu to Reclamation Road in Old Port Harcourt township, Mgbuoshimimi and Ada George Road in Mile 4 was a sorry sight to behold. It seemed the harbinger of terrible floods that subsequently afflicted Port Harcourt.

Even vehicles had to wade through huge collection of stagnant water in Ahiamakara in Ogbunabali, Sangana, Uyo, Oloibiri, Yenagoa, Afam and Abak Streets in D-Line.

Many property-owners and residents still harbour a morbid fear of the damage flood could cause to their property and structures inspite of the very pronounced interministrial committee  set up by govenment to confront the flood challenge.

But floods are not a new problem in the city centre. Remember what happened in 2004 and 2005 within Rumuokoro and Mgbuoba areas when flooding overtook the outskirts.

Today, residents of Abuloma, Amadi-Ama, Ozubuko, Azuabie Elekahia, Woji, Rukpokwu, Igwuruta, Elimgbu and Rumukwurushi have sordid tales to tell, as rain water surged into houses.

Aside this, the people of Oyigbo local government area and indeed commuters to and from Abia, Imo, Enugu, Anambra are decrying the state of road at Intels Junction along the Port Haraourt /Aba Expressway.

A resident of Oyigbo, who spoke to The Tide after the recent tanker fire incident Intels Junction, Mr. Abosi Simeon, appealed to Governor Chibuike Amaechi to come to their rescue.

That portion of the road was totally cut-off with a huge gully filled with water and led to the collision of a tanker with a commercial bus. Government has now anounced remedial measures until after the rains.

Another resident, Prince Ude, a business man tasked the state government to construct functional drainages along the road. He called for a proper assessment of the area with a view to building a drainage that would discharge water into the canal at Oil Mill.

Reacting to the down pour that overtook some parts of Rumuola from the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry axis to John Wonodi street, a resident, Nick Nebo, blamed property owners for the peoblem.

In his words, “the late development of properties is a major problem of the area. Government should persuade land owners to develop their properties so as to create channels and drainages for proper flow of water in the area.”

Aside the less developed areas of the city, the Government Reserved Area (GRA) Phase III is not spared by the marauding flood. Immediately one enters Abacha Road axis to Woji Road, almost all the houses within the area are besieged with flood.

In  2009, an Oyigbo, resident, Mr Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu wrote that “Port Harcourt has had extremely heavy downpours of rain during the months of August, September and October this year (2009) and the residents are finding it increasingly difficult to cope.  Every year, during this rainy season, the city becomes flooded and although the state government is apparently making some attempts to remedy the situation, it keeps getting worse”.  The situation does not look any better than what it was last year but ominous considering the fact that August, September and October are still to come.

Meanwhile, Chairman of Rivers State Task Force on De-flooding, Godstime Orlukwu, has continued to insist that the incessant flooding witnessed in some parts of the state capital should be blamed on residents’ poor sanitary habits.

His words: “We all know that we have some peculiar problems here in Port Harcourt as regards flooding .  Some of the causes of this  are natural because our plan is quite low, we live in a low plane and some of them are man made, in fact, 80 per cent of them I must say.  Now why I said it is man made is because Port Harcourt is a well drained city with rivers crisscrossing the entire city, so ordinarily when it rain, it is suppose to flow into the Atlantic  Ocean our next door neighbours, but because estate developers have so messed up the creek and canals that run through the city that is one of the basic reason why we are in this problem.”  

He told The Tide On Sunday recently, that efforts are in top gear to make the state capital flood-free.

According to him, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on drainage and flooding made recent breakthrough in checking the flooding problems at Education Bustop, Airforce, Market Junction and St Johns Busstop.  

“One of the things our committee has been doing is to enlighten the public on the dangers of dumping these solid waste inside drains we have been cleaning the drains for like two years now, if I tell you the kind of things we bring from our drains is abominable.  We bring out filling  cabinets, trendy bags   tires, kitchen ware, all kinds of cupboard there’s nothing   we have not seen in the drains especially the man holes, when you open them you cakes of solid waste in side these drains,” he explained.

He further said that “apart from that we have been able maintain Olu Obasanjo to a manageable level. It used to be terrible/impassable but by the constant intervention of our committee, we have been able to ease the problem.  Also in D/Line, we have been able to ease the situation, we had also worked CBN until the on-going construction brought first challenges because in course of doing the road you have to do durable draining.  Condemning the old drain through which the water used to flow and this drain that they are doing now is uncompleted, so until  they complete it they can’t close the channel that is why we have the problem in CBN now.

In due course we won’t experience these floods. Of course that is one of the long term measures the government is doing to tackle the flood problem, that road carries ultra modern drainage, deep and wide enough to carry the water that flows out of Government  House Moscow Road and adjoining  streets, that is a long term measure.  Or if you watch between education  and Mill lll, bigger pipes are being laid and we hope  that it will solve the problem along Ikwerre Road. permanently   You can also see that all the roads that government is doing now carry drainage facilities that are meant to save  people .

Nevertheless, The  Tide On Sunday sought the opinion of experts on the matter. A senior official of the committee and ministry of works, who pleaded anonymity with The Tide adduced several reasons why flooding may not abate immediately.

He blamed lack of a monitoring taskforce to check unhealthy habit of residents who dump refuse in drains, “The activities of residents pose great challenge to our work,” he commented “and we should not overlook the activities of road sweepers who sweep dusts and sand into the drains as well.”

Mr. Arizona-Ogwu also agreed but suggested that the government should look for floating concrete for low cost.  “A reality in Nigeria is that our property laws are not based on nature, there are a lot of properties near the rivers. It is not in the realm of our memories that certain areas are vulnerable to flooding… There should be amendments in building ordinances to allow higher level of construction of houses”.

In the same vein, Mr. J. Chima, a legal practitioner  blamed building engineers for buildings and structures that are usually knee-deep in floods when it rains. Mr Chima expressed delight with the fact that government now constract roads with drains.  Another respondent who sought to be anonymous also said government should be more decisive about structures that are built on natural drains.

However, honour Orluku   warned that the enforcement of relevant sanitary law is the responsibility of government.  Part  of  what his committee has  been preaching is that government will  deal decisively with those who block our drains.  The Governor has said he is going to deal with those who build in our natural drains every one knows that  he is a man of his words,  the reason why nothing has happened  now is that  we want to create enough awareness.

The seven canals or water outlets that helps drain the city, only about two now are free, The rest have either been blocked or built on top by developers.

The Tide On Sunday  investigations indicate that the seven canals include Amadi Creek, Diobu/Intawogba, Dockyard Creek, Elechi Creek, Bonny River, Okolabi and Okpola Creek behind Dockyard in Port Harcourt.  

Currently only Ntawogba Creek is prominent but in the last one year the canal has not been desilted.

The official averred, “most of the drains are not deep or wide enough to contain running water. And you find a situation where the Tidal water is increasing and the rain water is increasing more than the tide, so it becomes difficult for water to move.”

He also identified climate change as a major contributor to flooding saying that,” rainfall is heavier than it used to be. Just last week, France recorded one of its worst flooding in years, so flooding is a global problem.”

The senior official of the ministry of works also argued that Port Harcourt’s population explosion also contributes. “You would discover that most of the drains were built in the 70s, and early 1980s and the city has grown beyond that today.”

He explained that government was not resting on its oars, “a permanent solution is going on now. The present administration is beginning to realise like what we have in Calabar that we need deep drains and they are constructing them as you can see around the city.”

 

Noble Ikpami